Like all living creatures, whales need shelter and food to survive. A whale’s diet is important for maintaining their own health as well as the health of the ocean’s ecosystem. They are an extremely important part of the ocean’s food chain. Whales use well-developed skills like searching, hunting and isolating prey so they can consume their prey.
Every whale is different, though, in how they hunt and what they eat. There’s also a good reason why they are fat! Let’s find out more about exactly what do whales eat.
Baleen whales are whales that do not have teeth. They include the humpback whale, blue whale and the grey whale and 11 other recognised species. One way the baleen whale finds food is by using the filter technique. This is when they swim with their mouths open and filter food through their ‘baleen bristles’. They can then capture schools of fish or krill by keeping the water coming out through their bristles but blocking the prey in their mouth.
While grey whales are also baleen whales, they are one of the only species that feed mostly at the bottom of the ocean. Their diet can vary and contains crabs, plankton, larvae and small fish.
Toothed whales are active hunters. Teeth give toothed whales the means to attack and eat larger sea animals. Toothed whales may eat fish, squid or octopus.
It doesn’t sound like whales eat all that much, given how big they are. You might be wondering how whales can be so large when all they eat is fish and tiny plankton. However, whales consume a lot of those little creatures! In fact, they can consume up to 2500 kg per day!
Whales are fat because they aren’t really fat! They look fat because they are covered in a big, thick layer of blubber. That blubber is insulating, which means it keeps them warm in cold, arctic oceans. If they are swimming in a part of the sea where food supplies are short, they can use the extra calories in their blubber to keep them going.
No, not all whales carry large amounts of blubber. Those that are thinner or carry less fat are often found in warmer seas, whereas large whales, such as humpback whales, are adapted to colder waters.